Title: The Ecological Gardener: How to Create Beauty and Biodiversity from the Soil UpAuthor: Matt Rees-Warren
Cover Price: $24.95
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
For home gardeners interested in making their growing practices more regenerative, The Ecological Gardener promises to be an indispensable resource. Although there are now numerous books on the market about regenerative practices for small-scale farmers, most of them describe machinery or techniques that can’t be scaled down to fit a home garden.
The Ecological Gardener fills this void.
Gardens & the Natural World
Unlike most gardening books I’ve read, The Ecological Gardner doesn’t deal much with planting dates, seeding strategies or pest mitigation. Rather, the essence of the book is about integrating gardens into the natural world that surrounds them.
Throughout the book Rees-Warren argues that making your garden part of the local landscape is a kind of win-win. Improving habitat within your garden helps local mammals, birds and pollinators. And in turn, your garden becomes more diverse, resilient and healthy.
Rees-Warren provides numerous examples of what this integration can look like, including inviting wildlife into the garden, turning lawns into wildflower gardens and planting as many native species as possible.
(A quick note to U.S. readers: Rees-Warren is British, so many of the species he mentions are particular to the U.K. The same principles obviously apply anywhere, though).
A New Kind of Garden
In many ways, Rees-Warren is advocating for a kind of new understanding of what a garden is. As he observes at one point, many public gardens and parks contain few (if any) native species.
With the average home gardener drawing inspiration from these places, it’s no wonder that so many gardens contain no native species.
According to Rees-Warren, however, a garden should be more than a collection of plants with no connection to the natural world that surrounds it. Rather, by blending the garden with the local landscape, both can be strengthened.
To this end, Rees-Warren advocates for a redefinition of what weeds are. Invasive plants should be treated as weeds, and native plants should be seen as wildflowers.
A Practical Guide
Although The Ecological Gardener does spend time considering philosophical questions about things like the nature of gardening, it is also deeply practical. Throughout the book there are numerous one- or two-page instructionals on how to perform various practical tasks like taking a soil test or laying a hedgerow. These instructions are simple and concise, providing new gardeners with a valuable blueprint to follow.
The “Soil” chapter of the book is especially laden with helpful advice, including instructions on how to set up a bokashi bin, brew compost tea and make biochar.
In short, The Ecological Gardener is equal parts philosophical treatise and how-to manual. And these two elements work well together to create a gardening book that is new, important and educational.
The book is sure to inspire both novice and experienced gardeners to commit to growing in a more ecological way. And with more ecological and integrated gardens out there in the world, we’ll all be better off.